If you ask me "My Autumn's Done Come" by Lee Hazelwood is quite possibly the best retirement song ever written. The maverick singer-songwriter was only 37 when he wrote and recorded the song in 1966, yet it's one of the most evocative autumnal songs ever attempted, an unflinching look at the bath-chair period. "Let those 'I-don't-care-days' begin," he sings, "I'm tired of holdin' my stomach in/ Bring me water short and scotch tall / A big long black cigar that ain't all / Hang me a hammock between two big trees / Leave me alone, damned! Let me do as I please ..."
A sometime mentor to Duane Eddy, Ann Margret and Phil Spector, Hazelwood became a sort of Svengali figure during the Sixties, writing "These Boots Are Made For Walking" for Nancy Sinatra. In the Seventies he released a bunch of wilfully eccentric solo albums; all were commercial failures, and his 1973 album Poet, Fool or Bum received a one-word review in the NME – "Bum". Having been rediscovered in the Nineties, he was championed by Jarvis Cocker and Primal Scream (who covered "Some Velvet Morning" with Kate Moss).
Crucially, "My Autumn's Done Come" has more of an air of humility about it, and paints a picture of domestic minutiae that is far from luxurious (he discusses his faulty blood pressure, his indolence and the fact that he's not really bothered any more). Most retirement songs are either expressions of repeated frustration or wistful ballads of regret. The other type is the exotic validation, the exaggerated autobiography that adds a colourful – and usually completely inappropriate – wash to your life. The other quintessential retirement song is Paul Anka's "My Way", written for Frank Sinatra but obviously more than suitable for anyone wishing to frame their incomplete and far-from-successful time on Earth – especially if they happen to be performing in a glorified men's room on the fringes of a provincial industrial estate (subtext: I chose to be here, you understand, for reasons I probably don't need to explain to you right now).
The thing is, who is ever honest enough to acknowledge that their own particular race is over? Singing in the third person is one thing; admitting the game is up is another altogether.
Lee Hazelwood died of renal cancer in Henderson, Nevada, on 4 August 2007.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content